♦ Scottish poet and critic
Born in Glasgow, he was educated at Glasgow University and served in the Royal Army Medical Corps during World War II, an option he chose as a conscientious objector. He became assistant lecturer in English at Glasgow University (1947), rising to titular professor of English (1975-80), now emeritus. He published his first volume of poems, The Vision of Cathkin Braes, and a translation of Beowulf, in 1952. His verse from the 1950s is introspective and rather gloomy, but his later work contains optimism, and by the time of A Second Life (1968), he had embraced his homosexuality. An incomplete Collected Poems was published in 1990, followed by a collection of his influential essays and critical writings, Crossing the Border (1990). A skilled translator, he collected his translations of various writers, such as Boris Pasternak, Alexander Pushkin and Federico García Lorca, in Rites of Passage (1976). His adaptation of Edmond Rostand's Cyrano de Bergerac into demotic Glaswegian in 1992 was highly acclaimed, as was his translation of Racine's Phèdre into Scots as Phaedra in 2000. Beyond the Sun (2007) is a collection of poems on paintings. He was Glasgow's first Poet Laureate (1999-2005) and was appointed National Poet for Scotland in 2004. He was awarded an OBE in 1982 and the Queen's Medal for Poetry in 2000.
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